Did the Indian removal policy, and the conflicts waged in order to implement it, meet the criteria of a just war by Aquinas’ standards?

Watch the Carnegie Endowment Lecture video about the morality of professional soldiers serving in an unjust war. See link at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-2Z0FsViJE

Read Chapters 3 and 4 in The ethics of war and peace: An introduction to legal and moral issues: 978-0-13-092383-7

Read Indian Removal Act of 1830 at https://www.nativehistoryassociation.org/removal.php

Write a 500-750 word paper on the following topic.

Thomas Aquinas, as discussed in the text (pp. 49-53), noted three criteria (among others) for a just war:
1. To amend an injustice perpetrated by another state.
2. To address an injustice perpetrated by residents of another state.
3. To re-acquire (take back) property or possessions unjustly seized by another state.

He also advanced the theory of double effect which states that, when considering the possible good/bad effects of any act of aggression, such aggression is ethically permissible if:
1. Its bad effects are unintended.
2. The bad effects don’t outweigh the magnitude of the good effects.
3. There are no alternatives to the aggression that could avoid the bad effect.

In addition, St. Augustine added that the final objective of a just war must always be peace (42).

Between 1820 and 1860 in the United States, there were numerous Native American (Indian) nations and tribes still living in vast territories east of the Mississippi River. In 1824 President Monroe suggested that all Indians be moved—either voluntarily or forcibly, if necessary—west of the Mississippi, in order to remove threats to Americans living nearby and to make room for the development and settlement of this undeveloped area for millions of Americans needing the land and resources. In 1829-30 President Andrew Jackson obtained legislative support for this action and supporters of the Indian removal policy cited several reasons in support of its morality:

1. The protection of American citizens who had been coming into conflict with Indians living around these areas.
2. The protection and safety of the Indians themselves, who had long been suffering from poverty, disease, and rapidly decreasing populations because of prior wars, disease, and displacements.
3. Many of these territories had been claimed and recognized for a long time as U.S. territories (after prior wars with Indians there) but only remained unoccupied because Indians were still living there.
4. The needs of millions of Americans who wanted access to these lands/resources as compared with the needs of relatively few thousands of Indians who lived poorly, didn’t develop the land, and could live elsewhere just as easily.

The U.S. Supreme Court, under Justice John Marshall, considered the U.S. government’s claims against the Indians via two cases brought against the U.S. government in 1831 by the Cherokee tribe. The Court concluded that the United States had made legitimate and binding treaties recognizing the territorial sovereignty of the tribe over this land, and ruled that the United States could not legally force them to relinquish it. President Jackson, however, did not agree with the Court’s ruling and said, “John Marshall has made his ruling, now let him enforce it.”

The removal policy thus went forward, eventually relocating most Indian tribes to unfamiliar lands west of the Mississippi. Several tribes, such as the Seminoles, fought successfully against relocation, but the vast majority were moved by the thousands, resulting in thousands dying of starvation, disease, and fighting with U.S. soldiers along the way. The land onto which they were relocated was largely unfit for hunting, and they became even more demoralized and impoverished after being re-settled there. Their former territories did, however, become prosperous and populous regions of the United States and the cultivation and commercial exploitation of these lands increased prosperity for millions of Americans.

• Did the Indian removal policy, and the conflicts waged in order to implement it, meet the criteria of a just war by Aquinas’ standards?
• Did it violate the principle of double effect?
• Did it violate or satisfy St. Augustine’s additional criteria for just war?
• Was the U.S. government’s argument a valid and an ethical one? What would have been a reasonable and ethical policy, in your opinion?


Sample Solution

Sample solution

Dante Alighieri played a critical role in the literature world through his poem Divine Comedy that was written in the 14th century. The poem contains Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. The Inferno is a description of the nine circles of torment that are found on the earth. It depicts the realms of the people that have gone against the spiritual values and who, instead, have chosen bestial appetite, violence, or fraud and malice. The nine circles of hell are limbo, lust, gluttony, greed and wrath. Others are heresy, violence, fraud, and treachery. The purpose of this paper is to examine the Dante’s Inferno in the perspective of its portrayal of God’s image and the justification of hell. 

In this epic poem, God is portrayed as a super being guilty of multiple weaknesses including being egotistic, unjust, and hypocritical. Dante, in this poem, depicts God as being more human than divine by challenging God’s omnipotence. Additionally, the manner in which Dante describes Hell is in full contradiction to the morals of God as written in the Bible. When god arranges Hell to flatter Himself, He commits egotism, a sin that is common among human beings (Cheney, 2016). The weakness is depicted in Limbo and on the Gate of Hell where, for instance, God sends those who do not worship Him to Hell. This implies that failure to worship Him is a sin.

God is also depicted as lacking justice in His actions thus removing the godly image. The injustice is portrayed by the manner in which the sodomites and opportunists are treated. The opportunists are subjected to banner chasing in their lives after death followed by being stung by insects and maggots. They are known to having done neither good nor bad during their lifetimes and, therefore, justice could have demanded that they be granted a neutral punishment having lived a neutral life. The sodomites are also punished unfairly by God when Brunetto Lattini is condemned to hell despite being a good leader (Babor, T. F., McGovern, T., & Robaina, K. (2017). While he commited sodomy, God chooses to ignore all the other good deeds that Brunetto did.

Finally, God is also portrayed as being hypocritical in His actions, a sin that further diminishes His godliness and makes Him more human. A case in point is when God condemns the sin of egotism and goes ahead to commit it repeatedly. Proverbs 29:23 states that “arrogance will bring your downfall, but if you are humble, you will be respected.” When Slattery condemns Dante’s human state as being weak, doubtful, and limited, he is proving God’s hypocrisy because He is also human (Verdicchio, 2015). The actions of God in Hell as portrayed by Dante are inconsistent with the Biblical literature. Both Dante and God are prone to making mistakes, something common among human beings thus making God more human.

To wrap it up, Dante portrays God is more human since He commits the same sins that humans commit: egotism, hypocrisy, and injustice. Hell is justified as being a destination for victims of the mistakes committed by God. The Hell is presented as being a totally different place as compared to what is written about it in the Bible. As a result, reading through the text gives an image of God who is prone to the very mistakes common to humans thus ripping Him off His lofty status of divine and, instead, making Him a mere human. Whether or not Dante did it intentionally is subject to debate but one thing is clear in the poem: the misconstrued notion of God is revealed to future generations.



Babor, T. F., McGovern, T., & Robaina, K. (2017). Dante’s inferno: Seven deadly sins in scientific publishing and how to avoid them. Addiction Science: A Guide for the Perplexed, 267.

Cheney, L. D. G. (2016). Illustrations for Dante’s Inferno: A Comparative Study of Sandro Botticelli, Giovanni Stradano, and Federico Zuccaro. Cultural and Religious Studies4(8), 487.

Verdicchio, M. (2015). Irony and Desire in Dante’s” Inferno” 27. Italica, 285-297.